Rabu, 12 Februari 2014

The Star Online: Metro: South & East

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The Star Online: Metro: South & East

Magnitude 6.8 earthquake strikes China's Xinjiang

Posted: 12 Feb 2014 02:06 AM PST

BEIJING: A strong and shallow 6.8-magnitude earthquake struck China's far western region of Xinjiang on Wednesday, but in a sparsely populated area, the US Geological Survey said.

The tremor was only 12.5 kilometres (eight miles) deep but hit about 270 kilometres east-southeast of Hotan, the USGS said, in an extremely remote area.

China's Earthquake Networks Centre gave the magnitude of the afternoon quake as 7.3.

Another tremor of magnitude 5.7 struck five minutes later, five kilometres deep, followed by a series of aftershocks of up to 4.2 magnitude, it said.

A handout shakemap released by the US Geological Survey (USGS) shows the location (C) of a magnitude 6.8 Richter scale tremblor near Hotan, Xinjiang, China, 12 February 2014. 

"We were at the office at the time and felt strong shaking, the windows were rattling," a reporter in Keriya county near the epicentre told state broadcaster CCTV, adding that few people lived in the mountainous area and there were no reports yet of casualties or damage.

CCTV reported that Hotan was not seriously affected, while several people in the city told AFP they felt less than a minute of shaking.

"The earthquake lasted less than one minute, it was not strong, there are no buildings collapsed," said one resident by phone.

An expert told CCTV that the affected area often experienced earthquakes but was thinly populated, so the impact was likely to be limited.

A previous 7.3-magnitude earthquake struck the same county in March 2008, affecting 40,000 people, destroying 200 homes and causing an overall 10 million yuan ($1.7 million) in damage.

China is regularly hit by earthquakes, especially its mountainous western and southwestern regions.

A magnitude 6.6 earthquake in Sichuan province in the southwest killed about 200 people last April, five years after almost 90,000 people died when a huge tremor struck the same province.

Twin 5.6 and 5.9 magnitude quakes killed at least 95 people in the northwest province of Gansu last July.

But according to the USGS website, there was a 65 percent chance the latest quake had not caused any fatalities. "There is a low likelihood of casualties," it said.

Once a link on the Silk Road, Xinjiang covers 1.7 million square kilometres (660,000 square miles) - a sixth of China's territory.

It is home to the country's mostly Muslim Uighur minority, and has seen sporadic attacks on police amid complaints by the ethnic group of religious and cultural repression.

Beijing has justified tighter security in the area to stem a separatist movement it claims has links with foreign terrorist groups.

Xinjiang is rich in natural resources, containing roughly 30 percent of China's onshore oil and gas deposits and 40 percent of its coal, according to the official website china.org. -AFP

Thai opposition loses bid to annul election

Posted: 12 Feb 2014 12:34 AM PST

BANGKOK: Thailand's opposition on Wednesday lost a legal bid to nullify a controversial election disrupted by anti-government protests, in a boost to Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra's crisis-hit administration.

The kingdom's Constitutional Court declined to consider the petition by the Democrat Party to annul the February 2 vote and disband Yingluck's party, saying there were insufficient grounds.

"It gives a little bit of breathing space for the government but it does not resolve the deadlock," said Thitinan Pongsudhirak, director of the Institute of Security and International Studies at Bangkok's Chulalongkorn University.

"The election process remains messy but it has not been derailed," he added.

Demonstrators prevented 10,000 polling stations from opening in this month's vote, affecting several million people, mainly in opposition strongholds in Bangkok and the south.

The Election Commission has said the results of the vote will not be announced until polls have been held in all constituencies.

Yingluck will remain in a caretaker role with limited power over policy until 95 percent of the 500 seats in the lower house of parliament are filled to enable the appointment of a new government.

The premier called the polls in an attempt to assuage opposition protesters who have staged more than three months of mass street protests seeking her resignation.

The Democrats boycotted the vote, saying it would not end a political crisis stretching back to a military coup in 2006 that ousted Yingluck's elder brother Thaksin Shinawatra as premier.

The protesters want Yingluck to stand down to make way for an unelected "People's Council" to enact reforms to tackle corruption and alleged vote buying before new polls are held.

'Case over'

The Democrats had argued that the failure to hold the entire election on the same day was an attempt to grab power unconstitutionally - a complaint rejected by the court.

"This case is over," said the head of the opposition's legal team, Wiratana Kalayasiri, who filed the petition.

"But if the government does anything wrong again, we will make another complaint," he told AFP.

The Constitutional Court also rejected a request by Yingluck's Puea Thai Party to order an end to the opposition protests on the grounds that their action aimed to overthrow the democratic system.

Yingluck's opponents say her government is controlled by her brother Thaksin, who fled Thailand in 2008 to avoid going to jail for a corruption conviction and now lives in Dubai.

Pro-Thaksin parties have won every election for more than a decade, most recently in 2011 under Yingluck, helped by strong support in the northern half of the kingdom.

The Election Commission on Tuesday set a date of April 27 for election re-runs in constituencies where voting was disrupted by protesters.

But there is still no decision on what to do about 28 constituencies that have no candidates because demonstrators blocked the registration process.

Protesters have occupied major intersections in the capital since January 13 in a self-styled "shutdown" of Bangkok, although disruption to people's daily lives has been limited.

Attendance has fallen sharply with most sites nearly deserted for much of the day and several thousand people joining the rallies in the evenings.

The leaders of the anti-government movement have called for a big two-day protest starting on Friday.

There has been a series of grenade attacks and shootings in the capital - part of a wave of political violence linked to the protests that has left at least 10 people dead and hundreds injured.

Yingluck also faces an investigation by an anti-corruption panel into possible negligence of duty in connection with her flagship rice subsidy scheme - a move that could potentially result in her impeachment. -AFP

'Staycations' a popular choice this Valentine's

Posted: 11 Feb 2014 08:00 AM PST

Instead of the usual wine-and-dine formula for Valentine's Day, more couples are opting for "staycations" instead this year.

Celeste Chan, a corporate marketing manager at Naumi Hotel in Seah Street, said: "Why stop at a dinner?

"A staycation can provide a totally different experience and getaway for couples."

For couples seeking a romantic getaway but cannot find time for an overseas trip, staycations are a practical alternative.

Ivan Lim, business development director of Link Hotel, agreed. "Staycations are more affordable than overseas trips and also spare people the hassle of travelling on flights or coaches which could be tiring."

As Valentine's Day falls on a Friday this year, Link Hotel, a boutique hotel in Tiong Bahru, has seen a 15% increase in weekend room bookings for two nights.

It helps that Valentine's Day this year falls on the same day as chap goh mei, also known as the Chinese Valentine's Day.

Wang Zhiling, marketing and communication manager of Wangz Hotel, foresees a higher occupancy level than last year.

"The convenience and ease of booking a staycation makes it a preferred choice for guests who do not have the time to plan ahead," said Tan Chew Yen, a public relations and marketing communications manager at the Ritz-Carlton, Millenia Singapore.

Room bookings for Valentine's Day at the Ritz-Carlton are almost full, according to Tan.

Indeed, staycations have become bigger and better, with hotels trotting out Valentine's Day packages that do not stop at simply offering a room.

In addition to a one-night stay at a suite, The Ritz-Carlton's Valentine's Day package includes a romantic butler-drawn bath alongside champagne and strawberries.

For the first time, it is also organising Movies under the Stars, where hotel guests will enjoy classic romance films while sipping drinks with their Valentine under the moonlit sky.

Over at the Fullerton Hotel, their My Sweet Valentine package includes a four-course in-room dinner for the couple, Guided Heritage tours and shuttle services to the Orchard Road and City Hall shopping belts.

The exclusive Capella Resort's Be My Valentine: Moonlight Sonata package – it is only available for seven couples – comes with an in-villa spa treatment, a champagne breakfast and a photoshoot. — The Straits Times / Asia News Network

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